Makeup isn’t just a woman’s game anymore. I say this because I’m a man who wears makeup, and no, I’m not ashamed of it.
Thankfully, more and more men are beginning to use makeup as well, and as a result the stigma that beauty products are only for women are fading away.
According a survey of 1,000 men in the US and UK conducted by JWT conducted in 2013, 10% of men admit to having concealer in their bathroom cabinet. In addition to that 10%, 54% admit to using facial moisturizer and wash each day.
If you’re surprised, I would like to ask you to take a minute to ask yourself: Why? Is it that shocking that men would be self-conscious about their appearance and begin to take steps to make themselves feel better about it? For myself, makeup helped save my self-image. It allowed me to see past the things that made me feel frozen in my past, in order to see my future.
The first time I put on makeup was in order to cover the unfortunate crop of dark spots that had colonized themselves on the strap of my chin due to adolescent acne that never seemed to fade completely. I had run the gamut of skin-care products from exfoliants to at-home-skin-peel kits.
I thought that my face would forever be frozen in limbo: changing to reflect the years, forever holding onto the scarred past of my teenage blemishes. Then, I went into a MAC with my sister while she was shopping for lipstick. I approached a woman at the store and asked her if there was anything I could do about my acne marks. She smiled and showed me an aisle of CC creme (or, for those of you who aren’t makeup savvy, color-correcting creme) and my life was forever changed.
There is a misconception that men who use makeup are less masculine. But when we focus our discussion on feminism, we forget that the way we perceive men is just as important to that discussion.
For every thing we assign as “manly” we’re informing ideas of what makes something “womanly,” and when we do this we reinforce the boxes both sexes have been put into that no one wants to be in.
When we say it isn’t OK for men to wear makeup, we’re saying that only women can do external things to make themselves feel more beautiful. When we judge men for wearing makeup because it is too “girly” or “gay,” we are contributing to a society that says it’s OK to dictate what you’re allowed to do based on your gender. It’s antiquated and frankly, boring as hell.
There are a slew of interesting theories as to why men have begun to wear makeup more in mainstream culture. According to Benjamin Puckey, a New York-based makeup artist, “I think the growing popularity of makeup for boy bands, musicians, and actors is linked to perception,” he says.
“A flawless, foundation-covered and glossy-lipped look desexualizes these guys and makes them appear cuter and less threatening to younger women.”
Basically, the more men look like boys, the more marketable they are. Hence, why many young actors/singers in Hollywood have become open about wearing makeup.
We’ve become savvy to the tricks of photoshop, and as a result we’ve become to try and perfect ourselves to the naked eye, and what better way to do this than makeup? And while all these theories indicate that the public is aware of the changing tides, we forget that one of the main reasons why women wear makeup today is to feel more confident for themselves and no one else: can men not be extended the same explanation?
A large reason why the push for male grooming products have been pushed to the forefront of our awareness is that there’s a market for it. As previously mentioned, our society has become very aware of how the media morphs people’s images into perfection.
Men are the final frontier for beauty salespeople trying to sell perfection to an eager market. In 2006, a whopping 4.8 million was spent on male beauty products, a 7% increase from the year before. Beauty companies have begun launching special products marketed to men.
“They’re certainly concerned about camouflaging imperfections. The idea of a little light dusting of powder is no longer an extreme measure,” says Wendy Lewis, a beauty consultant and author.
And with the cosmetic company’s shifting their sales-focus to include men, it’s sending us all the message that makeup is for everyone, and believing anything otherwise is so passe.
But even if these statistics didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be afraid to admit I wear makeup. To admit something gives off the connotation that I’m ashamed of wearing it, and nothing could be farther from the truth.
I stopped being afraid to meet new people when I started wearing my CC creme. I stopped being afraid to go out for the jobs I wasn’t qualified enough for, and I started being comfortable talking to cute people without fear of being laughed at.
I started wearing makeup because I was exhausted looking in the mirror and not being happy with what was looking back at me. Now, I understand more than ever that your external appearance is only half the battle, but before makeup it was a battle I felt like I was constantly losing.
I like what I look at now, with or without the cosmetic help. But, there is power in knowing I have autonomy over my body and what I look like. Fearing that power seems like a step in the wrong direction, one I will never take.
Shawn Binder is a Los Angeles based writer who has appeared in VICE and Hobart Pulp.